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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
T. T. Shields
From the Plains Baptist Challenger, September 2013
"In those days also saw I Jews that had married wives of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab, and their children spake half in the speech of Ashdod, and could not speak in the Jews' language but according to the language of each people."
This interesting passage is found in the thirteenth chapter of Nehemiah, the twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses. It tells the story of the influence of two peoples; and of certain children whose speech was a mixture of two languages, so that it was difficult for a stranger to know whether they were Jews or Philistines. Their speech was neither one thing nor the other, so that anyone might be excused for being unable to identify their nationality.
These verses illustrate a situation which obtains in the theological world today. Simple evangelical believers, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God, who accept its teachings, and frankly witness to its truths, are often perplexed by the ambiguity of the language employed by many who call themselves evangelical Christians.
And when an old-fashioned believer asks one of these gentlemen of double-speech to be good enough to explain himself, and to tell us frankly whether he comes from Ashdod or Jerusalem, he immediately charges us with being unjustly and unnecessarily suspicious. Our modernist friends demand that we produce the proof of their modernism.
We admit that it is sometimes difficult to find a statement in clear and unequivocal terms by which some such teachers can be proved to have departed from the faith. Our modernist friends then insist that the burden of proof rests with those who charge them with a want of loyalty to the truth. On the face of it, their contention is plausible enough.
We have sometimes seen in the papers an account of some offense discovered by the police, when it has been said that the police found difficulty in placing the responsibility for the crime. And then we are told that a certain person has been detained as a "material witness." Generally speaking, in such cases the facts are that while the police are unable at the moment to name the offender, the so called "material witness" is equally unable to give a satisfactory account of himself and his movements.
We are disposed to ask our modernist friends why they do not use the Jews' language; and why in their books and their public addresses their speech should be half of Ashdod. It is, of course, just that everyone should be regarded as innocent until he is proved guilty. But when people speak half in the speech of Ashdod, there is in that fact a strong presumption that they are not wholly without some association with Philistia.
Is it unreasonable, not only to expect, but to demand, that one who assumes the position of a religious teacher should express himself in clear and unmistakable language? Surely there is a duty resting upon every true disciple of Christ to make a clear confession of his faith in Christ! Every regenerated person is required to be a witness for Christ. There is certainly no necessity for such a one's using a mixed language, having in it somewhat of the Jerusalem dialect with an account suggestive of the speech of Ashdod. And if such obligation rests upon Christians in general, how much more is it the duty of Christian preachers and teachers to learn to speak plainly.
One of the first requirements of a bishop or pastor is that he should be "apt to teach." But how is it possible for one really to teach who is unable to make himself clearly understood? It should not be difficult for a man, even in a few sentences, clearly to state whether he believes the Bible to be the Word of God or not.
The English language is sufficiently rich to enable a man, without the slightest ambiguity, to declare in a few words his view of the virgin birth, the Deity of Christ, His vicarious atonement, His resurrection, and ascension, and His coming again. If, in the discussion of these great questions, men choose to use the language of Philistia, they have no right to feel aggrieved if one should doubt their loyalty to Jerusalem. It is not difficult to differentiate between a Creationist and an Evolutionist: a Creationist uses the Jews' language, but an Evolutionist speaks half in the speech of Ashdod.
We enter a plea for a little more outspokenness. "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken: we also believe, and therefore speak." Meanwhile, we do well to study Nehemiah's example with respect to those whose language was a conglomeration of the dialects of Ashdod and Jerusalem.
He says, "I contended with them." There is, indeed, an urgent necessity for our contending, not only "for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints," but for a pure language by which that faith may be expressed. One thing is certain; the rebuilding of Jerusalem can never safely be entrusted to the hands of those who cannot speak in the Jews' language, but whose speech is half of Ashdod.